Study Tips for Nursing Students

Using effective, strategic studying tips improve your learning abilities as a nursing student. As a nursing student myself, these have helped me along my journey, and I hope you can benefit from these as well. While a seasoned nurse has learned a great wealth of knowledge on the job, a nursing student has limited time to take in as much as possible. After all, we can't predict what's on the NCLEX, but we can study smarter.

Studying Hard for Nursing School

Medical Terminology

Medical terminology is a key element to understanding what is asked or said related to nursing. Some programs will offer this class, while others will not. If you find yourself going into nursing classes without a foundation in medical terms, then this is something you'll want to familiarize yourself with. For example, if a word has the prefix "an" on the front of it, that means no or without. The word aerobic means requiring oxygen and anaerobic means requiring no oxygen. Other good examples:

  • Encephal = Brain
  • Vaso = Vessel
  • Iso = Same, Equal
  • Pnea = Related to breathing

It's difficult to answer a question about buccal medication, if you don't understand that buccal means cheek. 


Mnemonics are a great tool for remember lengthy or difficult things, such as cranial nerves. With a quick google search, many mnemonics will be at your fingertips. However, I've always remember the ones that I make up easier, often using personal names, places, and sayings that are easier for me to remember. 

Example: Remembering the order of the listening to the heart during a head-to-toe assessment. "All Pigs Eat Their Meals" = Aortic, Pulmonary, Erb's Point, Tricuspid, and Mitral.

One that I came up with to remember how cranial nerve VII relates to the eye. "A game of 7 minutes in heaven gone bad, leads to tears and closure." 

Heart Assessment Mnemonics

Flash Cards

Flashcards are a nursing student's best friend. By using flash cards, you utilize different learning styles by:

  • Reading the information presented
  • Translating into information that can be placed on the cards
  • Copying it down on the cards, utilizing your memorization
  • Using the cards to be quizzed 

Flashcards can include different colors to make the key ideas or words stick out. They are also handy to carry in your bag or pocket. When I was a waitress, I kept a few in my pocket. Once I got a free minute, I'd look at one over and over again, until I had it down. I'm willing to bet that if you just think about all the free minutes you have, you can increase your study time by hours a week. Think about all the time we spend waiting.

  • Picking our kids up from school
  • Sitting in the doctor's office
  • Waiting for class to begin
  • Waiting at the post office

Anyway, you get the idea. We spend a lot of time waiting, that can be utilized into study time. So keep your handy-dandy flashcards with you at all times.


Teaching has become my most successful study tool. I teach nursing to my child, peers, and family members. I've learned that if you can teach it successfully, you have grasped the knowledge. For example, If I teach the path of blood flow through the heart to others, I am more likely to remember it and strike up a conversation for other questions and learning opportunities. This carries out what I have learned into my personal life. As nurses, we will need to be great teachers among caregivers. 

When we were learning foley catheters, my classmate and I took turns being the teacher and student. What one did not catch, the other one did. 

Audio for Hands Free Learning

If your teacher gives you permission, record the classes. You can listen to these on your commute, when you are cleaning, or doing anything else that requires your hands. You can also download an app that will read your books too you. Although, I must say that some have a monotone voice that is annoying. 

YouTube videos are another great source of information. I watch them while I work on other projects, or even when I'm exercising at the gym. Just make sure the source of the video is creditable. For pharmacology, I recommend Professor Fink. He's videos are not only helpful, but entertaining... at least, as much as pharm can be.

Games and Coloring Books

There are free games online for nursing and apps. There are also games you can make yourself or buy. I take index cards and write lab values on one card and the lab on the other. Then, I match them up. I play this at least once a week to keep the lab values in my mind. This can also be done with medications and medical terms. 

I purchased a coloring book to help me with anatomy. When looking at a picture long enough to color, it becomes implanted in my mind. It also helps relieve the stress that nursing school can bring on.